IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

2018 ChannelPro SMB All-Stars


The recipe for integrator success in the Internet of Things (IoT) includes several essential ingredients, including solutions to sell, access to associated services, and a centralized tool for managing it all. AT&T has made big strides in all those areas this past year.

Those milestones range from launching an IoT marketplace filled with third-party products compatible with Dallas-based AT&T’s mobile network, to expanding its IoT professional services offerings through a major alliance with Ericsson, to rolling out a cloud-based, single-pane-of-glass management platform for IoT hardware. The end results were significant new reasons for VARs and integrators to give AT&T a serious look when evaluating IoT platform vendors.

Full disclosure: We’re a little biased here at ChannelPro about CompTIA, the Downers Grove, Ill.-based industry membership organization. After all, we collaborated with the organization earlier this year on the new CompTIA/ChannelPro Cecilia Galvin Scholarship Award, which grants $2,500 to a young woman pursuing a career in IT, and is named after our former executive editor, Cecilia Galvin, who passed away in 2017.

Honestly, though, we would have included them on this list anyway. That new awards program is just one of many ways CompTIA is working to promote diversity in the tech industry. And not just because it’s the right thing to do, either. “The research continues to show that the companies with the most diversity tend to make the most innovative decisions [and] tend to be the most profitable,” CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux told ChannelPro in an August interview. We hope technology companies large and small are listening.

Michael George, Boston-based Continuum’s CEO, badly wants channel pros to understand three things about cybercrime: It’s the most lucrative type of organized crime on the planet at present, MSPs who can’t protect their clients from it are likely to get fired before long, and MSPs who can protect their clients from it stand to make a lot of money.

That analysis lays the context for the rollout earlier this year of Continuum’s big, new end-to-end managed security lineup, which combines profiling, protection, detection, and response software with 24/7 assistance from a professionally staffed security operations center. In a bid to round out the portfolio with managed SIEM functionality, furthermore, Continuum pulled off the single shrewdest acquisition of the year, purchasing popular cybersecurity startup CARVIR, of Cumming, Ga., in June.

Most businesses don’t make it to their first birthday. Those that are still around after 25 years have accomplished something significant. Those that last long enough to celebrate their centennial are the rarest of outliers.

Yet Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H reached 100 years old in 2018 by getting in early on new technology markets, starting with radio in the 1920s and continuing on to TVs, kitchen appliances, and eventually computers. It’s also adapted nimbly to changing times, most recently by launching its Solutions & Services program, which helps channel pros sell complete solutions rather than just products, and a device-as-a-service program offering lease-like pricing on desktops, notebooks, and tablets.

What’s the big deal? ask people who know nothing about battery technology. Laptops have had lithium-ion batteries for ages. Why is using them in UPS devices any harder? Well, if you don’t care about fire safety and ignore the enormous engineering challenges involved in packing UPS-scale power into small cases—not to mention all the regulatory hoops you must jump through just to get lithium-ion cells to market via airplanes—it’s not hard.

Once you acknowledge those facts of life, however, you soon come to appreciate what a huge accomplishment it was when Eaton’s Raleigh, N.C.-based power quality division shipped its first single-phase UPS products with lithium-ion batteries this year. The payoff for Eaton customers is a greener, more affordably priced alternative to the heavy, pricey, and toxic lead-acid batteries that UPS hardware has long utilized.

It isn’t traditionalism that’s kept color from taking command of business printing, nor is it an aversion to bright, eye-catching documents. It’s the fact that printing a full-color page has long cost about as much as buying a triple-shot latte. Epson America, of Long Beach, Calif., is on a quest to eliminate economics as a barrier to branching out beyond monochrome. Its family of EcoTank printers, which welcomed a slew of fast, efficient newcomers this year, has lowered the cost of color inkjet printing to pennies a page, making color an affordable option for a whole new class of buyers in the process.

It’s been a busy year for this Palo Alto, Calif.-based industry giant, but we like two of its recent moves in particular. With respect to hardware, HPE introduced the Edgeline Converged Edge Systems family, a set of “edge-to-cloud” products designed to make deploying Internet of Things and other solutions easier by enabling organizations to run the same applications both where data is created and in the cloud.

With respect to its partner program, HPE gave resellers access to its GreenLake Flex Capacity program, which enables businesses to buy software-defined infrastructure, all-flash storage, private cloud systems, and other on-premises products on a pay-per-use basis. What’s more, a new set of sales commission multipliers now rewards channel pros for selling GreenLake offerings by paying them five times the rebate they normally get on HPE deals.

Ever have a “why didn’t I think of that” moment? We’re guessing senior executives at some pretty big security vendors did this year as they watched this Bowie, Md., company turn scanning the so-called “dark web” for stolen user credentials from an idea no one had heard of to a service that rapidly expanding numbers of MSPs can’t live without in a shockingly short span of time.

And we do mean “rapidly” and “shockingly”: ID Agent, which only began selling through the channel in May 2017, has amassed more than 1,000 MSP partners since then. Now it’s begun rolling out integrations with ConnectWise Manage, Datto Inc.’s Autotask product, and other leading PSA platforms as well.

Like we said before about D&H, businesses that measure their age in decades are few and far between. Intel, which turned 50 in July, is a proud member of that exclusive club. And it got there by following the advice of co-founder Robert Noyce. “Don’t be encumbered by history,” he once said. “Go off and do something wonderful.”

Inspired by those wise words, Intel employees have been innovating furiously for years. In the last 12 months, their efforts have resulted in noteworthy advances everywhere, from artificial intelligence and virtual reality to 5G networking and the Internet of Things, not to mention the introduction of the first performance-accelerating Intel Optane memory products for mainstream client devices and the production launch of the 8th Generation Intel Core processor family, which has given birth to a swiftly growing crop of fast, light laptops with glee-inducingly long battery life.

If a product’s good, its name becomes universally recognized. If it’s great, its name becomes synonymous with a product category. In tissues, that name is Kleenex. In managed services documentation, it’s quickly becoming IT Glue.

Founded just five years ago, the Vancouver, B.C.-based company hired its first employee in 2015. Today, it has 5,000 MSP customers supporting 500,000 businesses with some 5 million employees. In 2018, the explosively expanding vendor not only entered a whole new product category with the introduction of a password management product for end users, but also added automated connections to Microsoft Office 365, Cisco Meraki, Auvik Networks, and others to an already impressive list of integrations.

Headquartered from dual offices in New York and Miami, this IT management software company has an indisputably ambitious objective: to become the supplier of choice for everything MSPs use to support their customers.

It’s wasting no time in pursuit of that mission too. In a bold string of portfolio-expanding acquisitions executed over the course of the past year, Kaseya bought appliance-based BDR vendor Unitrends Inc., compliance and security vendor RapidFire Tools Inc., and cloud-to-cloud backup vendor Spanning Cloud Apps LLC. It also added built-in documentation software, written in collaboration with fellow All-Star IT Glue, to its RMM platform.

According to CEO Fred Voccola, Kaseya has more acquisitions coming soon. Check your inbox, vendors. You may be next.

You’ll have trouble getting Apple admirers to admit it, but the fact is that Microsoft, of all companies, has been a more consistent source of hardware innovation in recent years. The latest evidence is the now mass-market availability of Windows PCs bearing ARM processors and x86 emulation functionality capable of running legacy Windows software. In a campaign that required no small amount of effort, Microsoft successfully rallied chip makers like Qualcomm and hardware makers like Lenovo and HP to an initiative that ultimately led to the creation of a whole new category of laptops with extra-long battery life and affordable price tags

Fact: Artificial intelligence software will produce nearly $1.2 trillion worth of business value this year and over $3.9 trillion in business value four years from now, according to Gartner. Prediction: The vast majority of that software will be running on hardware loaded with processors from NVIDIA, of Santa Clara, Calif. The undisputed king of the GPU hill ever since the launch of its Pascal architecture two years ago, NVIDIA took a generational leap forward this year with the introduction of Pascal successor Turing, which offers six times the performance plus significantly more realistic lighting and shadows thanks to new real-time ray tracing technology.

ARM processors already power most of the world’s smartphones and tablets. Qualcomm wants to get them inside almost every other kind of device as well. Since we last doled out All-Star awards, the San Diego-based vendor has shipped the Snapdragon 850, the first ARM processor specifically for Windows PCs; the Centriq 2400, the world’s first 10nm server processor; and the Vision Intelligence Platform, Qualcomm’s first system-on-chip for the Internet of Things. We can only imagine where the company’s ARM-everywhere strategy will take it next.

All it takes to foil even the most carefully layered security strategy is a single thoughtless employee with a penchant for clicking on random links. Security vendors know it too, which is why so many of them have been introducing end-user security awareness training solutions lately.

No one has done a more thorough job of thinking through security awareness training, though, than Morristown, N.J.-based Secure Now!, which in May equipped its flagship solution with a FICO-like scoring tool that helps businesses determine which employees pose the greatest security risk and then remediate their most dangerous habits. A “leader board” that shows people how their risk score compares to those of anonymously identified peers, meanwhile, utilizes the power of gamification to inspire users to take sharpening their security know-how seriously.

The time required to reinvent a business is typically measured in years. SonicWall, of San Jose, Calif., only needed months. Nine months, to be exact, which is how long it took the company to transform itself from a firewall hardware manufacturer into the maker of an end-to-end threat detection and response platform with physical, virtual, on-premises, and cloud-based components. In that brief time span, SonicWall launched 24 new products packing 160 million lines of code. It’s our sincere hope at ChannelPro that no one on its development team suffered carpal tunnel syndrome in the process.

We didn’t hear much at ChannelPro from this well-known BDR vendor for a while. In August, we found out why. From its headquarters in Draper, Utah, StorageCraft was quietly developing a next-generation successor to its ShadowProtect product called ShadowXafe and an all-new converged data storage and protection platform for midsize businesses called OneXafe. The unifying element linking both new offerings, however, is actually our favorite part of all. Called OneSystem, it’s a single-pane-of-glass management console that saves MSPs time by dramatically streamlining the normally complicated process of configuring backup solutions for widely varied combinations of virtual and physical workloads.

Meanwhile, as long as they were totally revamping their product roster, the folks at StorageCraft decided to completely remodel their partner program too, adding a new set of quarterly rebates and a more easily understood, consistently applied set of rules and benefits.

The big managed services software makers all have firm plans to roll out functionality for discovering and supporting Internet of Things devices. Germany-based TeamViewer, by contrast, doesn’t have plans to introduce IoT management software so much as an actual shipping IoT management product. Called TeamViewer IoT, it includes remote control and monitoring functionality for devices running on the Ubuntu, Windows, Android, Intel, and Samsung Artik IoT platforms, among others, as well as a centralized, web-based dashboard. For the moment, at least, it’s the most compelling answer we’ve seen to a massive IT management challenge.

Lots of people have reason to join us in recognizing this Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor for its creatively-designed RECON Security Suite, which debuted in June. Resellers have cause to appreciate the access they’ve gained to useful, subscription-priced niche solutions from lesser-known vendors. Those vendors have cause to appreciate the access they now enjoy to a big, new community of resellers. And name-brand security vendors have cause to appreciate Tech Data’s decision to limit RECON to services they don’t provide themselves. There are seven RECON offerings in all at present, and Tech Data plans to add more on a steady basis.

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